Taking on an apprentice

Pam has been a childminder for 14 years. She recently took on an apprentice and tells her story below.

As someone who loves working with children, it is natural that you want to offer as many places as possible. But with strict childminder ratios, I found myself not being able to offer spaces to siblings and as a result parents faced waiting lists.

My daughter was at crossroads in her career at the time, and someone suggested I take her on as an apprentice. Initially, because she was related, I didn’t think it would be allowed, but it was, and I actually had lots of encouragement and support.

Even though my apprentice was my daughter and I knew her strengths and weaknesses, I still treated her like a potential employee. She was interviewed, and we discussed the hours that she would be required to work. I contacted the apprenticeship hub for my local authority and I worked closely with them to choose the training route that suited both myself and my apprentice.

Having an apprentice made a real difference to my role. It gave me the flexibility to offer more spaces and to be more accommodating with school drop offs and pickups. For example, we had two children whom we had looked after since babies that were going to two different schools but whose parents still wanted them to come to us before/after school. With only me that wouldn’t have been possible. Having an apprentice also enhanced the setting as it gave the children another person to go to. As childminders know all too well, the job can be isolating, so having an apprentice gave me some much needed company.

I think perhaps one of the more challenging aspects is the delegating. Having worked on my own for 12 years I found that having to ask someone else to do something that I would normally have done myself was a little difficult initially. But it made me more organised. Now each week we discuss what we want to do during the week ahead and who is going to take responsibility for each job and activity. 

Taking on an apprentice can seem quite daunting as you are responsible for their wellbeing, wages, and the work they do. But it is one of the best things I have done and would recommend it to anyone considering it. Towards the end of the apprenticeship we sat down and discussed the future. She wanted to continue working for me – so she became my assistant.

This role has continued to bring in benefits. My daughter has grown in confidence and is a definite asset to the business. She has developed good relationships with staff in the school and pre-school. The children love having her around. They always know there is another trusted person who can help them and I can hand on heart say that is has really enhanced my setting. Not only have I been able to offer more places, but I can now be more flexible with continuity of care.

Pam's top tips:

  • Think it through carefully - taking on an assistant makes you an employer and a manager - which means you have to be responsible for all aspects of being an employer, including finances, development, contracts, performance reviews and so on.
  • It is important to employ somebody that you feel very comfortable with: somebody that you feel will respect you and your home, but who will also be professional and treat it as a proper job
  • Spend time selecting your assistant and get references to make sure they are the right person for your setting
  • Set out clear guidelines and expectations from day one, agreeing a trial period. This means that if things aren't quite what you or your assistant expect, either of you can terminate the employment if needed
  • Have a list of regular tasks and assign someone to each task - agreeing this up front will help both of you know what is expected, and aid in the smooth running of the day. 

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